The web has been a lifeline during lockdown. Digital tools have helped us stay connected — families with each other, teachers with students and businesses with customers. There has never been a time when technology could be more helpful to people, communities and countries.
Unsurprisingly, as a result of the pandemic, our use of technology has leapt forward five to ten years in as many months — accelerating trends that we were already experiencing in the retail sector and beyond.
Trends: the new WWW
When browsing in a store became impossible, people didn’t stop looking for inspiration. Instead, window shopping went virtual. Searches for “ideas” surged on both Google Search and Google Images, with shoppers seeking inspiration when they didn’t have a specific product in mind. For retailers to capture those customers, visibility is crucial: More than 60% of shoppers we surveyed said they ordered from a brand after seeing it on YouTube.
The increased need for online shopping has led to a final convergence of online and offline shopping. Customers like to have the same inspiration and advice that they could get in store — but now, they want it from home. And those same customers are demanding more when they do shop. Searches for terms like “best” and “promo code” continue to rise, and customers expect doorstep delivery service across more and more categories. “WWW” no longer only stands for the worldwide web: it’s now what we want, when and where we want it.
Finally, we know that today’s shoppers value their privacy. They want to have control of their data, they need to give permission for it, and they deserve to know how it is being used.
At Google, we’re working with retailers to ensure that every online interaction is an opportunity. Online can be just as valuable as in-person for building direct relationships with customers, strengthening trust and building loyalty. Retailers just need to use the right insights and tools to get them there.
Trainings: Using digital tools and skills to weather the pandemic
Even before the pandemic, many retailers — large and small — had been embracing digital to find new opportunities. Those who went into the pandemic behind found themselves quickly learning new skills — so much so that the Connected Commerce Council found that 75% of European small businesses in the retail industry increased their use of digital tools during the pandemic, building a “digital safety net” for their businesses.
Take Maison des Sœurs Macarons, a famed dessert shop in Nancy, France. The owner Nicolas saw store sales drop by 90%, and decided to attend our Google Digital Workshop training program. After learning how to reach customers online with Google Ads and e-commerce, he saw the volume of online orders and customers double.
Since the start of the pandemic, our Grow with Google programme has trained more than three million individuals and businesses like Nicolas’ across Europe, equipping them with the digital skills they need to recover from the pandemic. And to help turn those newfound skills into action, we’ve launched more than 200 features since March 2020, helping businesses connect with their customers in this shifting landscape. With the holiday season ahead, we now have the pleasure of announcing a few more.
This was a group effort and digital tools made it all so much easier and more affordable than any of us were expecting.
Tools: What you need to give your customers the experience they deserve
More than ever, businesses need to be discoverable in more places than the high street. To help retailers stand out, we’re launching tailored recommendations for every business with our new tool, Local Opportunity Finder. Retailers can simply enter the name of their business into the easy-to-use tool, and we’ll provide customised solutions on how to improve their presence on Google Search and Maps — all in under five minutes. The impact can be huge: in Germany, for example, complete Business Profiles receive an average of over five times more calls compared to an incomplete profile.
In June, we’ll be rolling this tool out in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain with more countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa to follow in the coming months.
To make it even easier for retailers to manage their online presence, we’re also simplifying the process, allowing businesses to directly manage their contact information, opening hours and updates from Search and Maps.
In addition, we help retailers with their existing e-commerce providers. We’ve built new, simplified integrations with Shopify and WooCommerce, helping retailers quickly get their product inventory live on Google — making sure more customers know what they sell and where to reach them.
Doing our part
We know that the tech-celeration we’ve seen can be tricky to keep up with. None of us know exactly how the next six months will unfold, but the resilience and creativity of small and medium-sized businesses over the last year deserves celebrating.
We’ll work hard to help support the retail industry recover in the region — delivering the digital tools and skills you need, the insights you want, and the partnership you deserve.